Standard of care is the degree of care an ordinary, reasonable, and prudent person would exercise in given circumstances. Used as a test of liability in cases of negligence, this standard is not applied uniformly on all persons because varying degrees of reasonableness may be expected from a minor (infant), an unskilled person, or a professional such as a doctor. In tort law, a duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on an individual requiring that they adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence. (from the definition of standard of care)
As a flooring dealer or contractor you pass yourself off as an expert in the sale and installation of every type of flooring material you sell and install. This includes all soft and hard surface products. If a consumer comes to you to purchase a soft or hard surface flooring material and relies on your recommendation you are responsible for the performance of the product. Regardless of whether or not they insist on a certain product or rely solely on you, you have a degree of responsibility to provide a product that is merchantable for the particular purpose or service intended. This responsibility would lie with you by either suggesting a product they are considering purchasing that would or would not be appropriate for them. You determine the application and appropriateness by asking questions such as where are you going to use this material and what type of traffic and care will it receive? These two questions and others like them would go a long way in helping you determine whether or not the product they want will actually perform as expected. If you tell them it will and it doesn’t just because you want to make the sale then you can be held responsible for the failure. Just because you didn’t know where it was going to be used, which you should always determine to avoid failure, is no excuse. The standard of care here is that you are passing yourself off to the consuming public as an expert simply by the fact that you are selling floor covering material As such, you are considered the expert as you function in this field everyday and your customer does not. So if you tell them to use something and it doesn’t work and they file a claim, you’re the first one on the hook. You can compare this to the guy at the tire store who recommends a particular set of tires for your vehicle. You rely on him to sell you the right size and type of tire for the type of vehicle you drive. But in the tire analogy there are guidelines for what type, kind and size tire should be used. Unfortunately we don’t get those types of guidelines in the flooring industry which is all the more reason your expertise is relied on and so important. This however does not mean you are responsible for a particular failure of the materials performance but it does mean you’re the first in line if there is a complaint filed.
There’s also a standard of care relative to the installation of the flooring material and this is even more important. You may not have as much influence over the sale of the flooring material if the consumer insists on a particular product but you certainly have control over how it is installed if you’re firm is doing the installation. The standard of care would be that which is given as industry or manufacturers guidelines to install various types of flooring material. In the case of carpet the CRI Installation Guidelines would be used as a standard of care relative to the acclimation of the carpet, stretching, tack strip type and placement, making of seams, etc. The same would be true of resilient flooring through the Resilient Flooring Institute or for wood through the National Wood Flooring Association. The manufacturer of the particular flooring material would have guidelines for installation which would supersede or adjunct the associations mentioned. If you don’t install according to specific and particular industry standards and/or the flooring manufacturers guidelines then you are responsible for the failure of the installation. Again, you are responsible for how the material is installed but not necessarily with everything associated with the existing or environmental conditions of the installation and installation site. In the case of wood for example, if the installation is done properly and the environment not controlled in the installation site and there is an installation failure as a result, that is not an installation issue. That would be a standard of care of the individual who’s supposed to protect the integrity of the space by making sure the HVAC system is operating where it should be to protect the flooring and other furnishings stability.
The standard of care is something you may not be aware of legally but it is simply making sure you do your job according to the industry standards and standards of the manufacturer. It doesn’t mean you’re supposed to know everyone else’s obligations but you have to know yours.